Broken Branch Breakdown is a backyard party for all of Ann Arbor


Broken Branch Breakdown 2018

Over the first four years of its existence, the Broken Branch Breakdown roots-music festival has established itself as a truly grassroots event in the Ann Arbor community.

Admission is free. The vibe is casual and family friendly. The music itself is rootsy, mostly falling somewhere into the Americana/folk/jam-band genres.

It’s almost like somebody just invites all of Ann Arbor over to relax and listen to some tunes in the backyard. And in fact, that’s exactly what happens.

Local musician Adam Labeaux created and hosts the festival at his home just east of Dixboro. Part of the motivation, he explained, was that as a working musician he didn’t have the opportunity to hear his own favorite regional acts as often as he would like. So, he decided to create the opportunity himself. 

The other part of the motivation was having a perfect location -- an acre and a half, including a house with a wraparound back porch. “It just looks like a stage,” Labeaux says. “Part of the reason I bought it was that it’s a great place to have a show.” 

Labeaux had organized festivals in the past, so when he moved to the Ann Arbor area from the West Coast in 2000, the idea was already in the back of his mind. When he bought the perfect home, everything fell into place.

“It started as a grassroots event. The first year we kept it kind of underground and we built it up from there,” Labeaux says. “I figured, come one, come all. … Let’s just all get together at my place.”

Except for one year when weather caused some issues, the festival has seen its audience steadily grow. This year, there’s a new shelter for the bands, so the event will happen rain or shine.

For the festival’s fifth edition, Labeaux is doing a little more publicity, hoping to really establish the event as a part of the community. The lineup includes a number of talented area roots-music acts:
Back Forty
T.J. Zindle
Adam Labeaux and Big Red Oak
Paul’s Big Radio
Band of Rasmus
Mike Gentry
James Henes

The number and variety of acts is an important part of the festival. Labeaux notes that easy access to recorded music sometimes means people need a little push to hear it live. A festival setting can provide just that push -- you might know a couple of the bands and also figure you might hear something new, and that combination may get you out the door. 

“There’s a ton of fantastic talent and art happening right here,” Labeaux says. With a festival setting, “there’s a little more motivation” to experience it.

Labeaux has added one new aspect to the event this year: Donations to Food Gatherers will be accepted (and encouraged, though not required). Noting that he’s been both hungry and homeless in his life, Labeaux says he wants to address those issues directly now that things are more stable for him personally.

“I wanted to give back to the community and give back to people who have less than I do,” he says.

Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and

Broken Branch Breakdown 2018 starts at noon Saturday, July 26, at 6090 Plymouth Road. Details here. Admission is free. Parking is available across the street and on the shoulder of Plymouth Road, but be sure to park off the pavement or risk a ticket. The event is family friendly. Coolers welcome. A gas grill is available on site.